Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Die Hard 4.0

Len Wiseman (surprisingly the director of the woeful 'Underworld' films) has made a gripping entry in the Die Hard franchise with this latest installment, 'Die Hard 4.0'. Minimising the CGI while emphasising stuntwork, the movie is a fast-paced game of cat and mouse, with John McClane (Bruce Willis) once more forced to save the day (and the USA) from a gang of psychopathic computer nerds.

Following the formula that has served them so well so far, though raising the stakes, the story concerns a disgruntled former employee of the US Government holding the country to ransom by hacking into the computer systems controlling the nation's transport, communication and utilities networks. This being a 'Die Hard' movie, however, what appears to be a large scale hijacking hides another less obvious objective.

Faced with so many nerdy computer geeks, McClane, a beast of another era, is showing his age. To emphasise this, the leader of the villains, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), is a contemporary of the young hackers who unwittingly abet him in his scheme. While Olyphant doesn't quite have the scenery chewing presence of a Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman, he satisfies his job spec with a turn that is arrogant, intelligent and quietly menacing. To level the playing field, McClane finds himself partnered with a computer nerd of his own, hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long). Computer nerds or not though, the villains are still handy with machine guns and bombs ('Hardware to your software' as Olyphant's slimey mastermind puts it), so McClane still gets to bloody his vest (green instead of the trademark white this time). Indeed with a stuffy, old-fashioned message very much in keeping with the reactionary spirit of it all, brawn is seen to win out over brains every time.

McClane is from another decade ('The 70s?' asks the young hacker), one without computers or for that matter technology from the way he goes on, and the movie gets great mileage out of this. There is much nudge-nudge, wink-wink referencing of his earlier feats of heroism, but also a darker hint that he is a loyal servant passed over for just reward (much like the villain of the piece). In its old cop-young convict pair fleeing for their lives, it recalls another recent Willis movie, '16 Blocks', though here unlike that movie, there is never the slightest possibility that McClane could be anything other than a pure cop.

Ludicrous though the whole thing is, it moves at such a frenetic pace that you rarely have time to consider the implausibilities. Even the familiar hacker stereotypes thrown out (pasty faced, basement dwelling conspiracy theory addicts), the lazy patriotism on show and the easy debunking of Farrell's idealism are swallowed for the good of entertainment. And there is a lot of entertainment to be had from 'Die Hard 4.0', guilty though it may be. McClane, and the franchise, may have aged, but the macho values are unchanged and sadly are just as much fun as they were in the beginning. However self-disgusted you might be afterwards, you would be hard-hearted indeed not to enjoy it while it lasts.

And now for the mean-spirited addendum you don't really want to hear, but which my personal self-disgust won't let me leave out. Fun though the movie is to watch, whenever I think back on it I can't help but feel a little bit bored and a tweensy bit angry. It is a strong blend of the old formula but it is still the old formula and really we need to be moving on, instead of just making the bangs louder, the stunts wilder. Yes, it is a good night out, but this kind of good old boy posturing is the same shit that helps make the average American Joe willing to go to every Middle Eastern state he can to 'sort things out'. (Bear in mind that in the US the movie is called 'Live Free or Die Hard'. Also consider that besides traitorous Americans, the villainous gang seems largely comprised of French.) Things are just a wee bit more complex than any Die Hard movie might pretend, and no one man (and it's always a man), however Bruce Willis-y he might be, can beat the bad guys single (or even dual) handed. Oftentimes knowing who the real bad guys are is difficult enough.


At 10:36 pm, Blogger Peter Bae said...

Hey, great review on Live Free or Die Hard. Yeah, it is a bona fide entertainer. I've also written a review at

Please let me know if you agree with me.


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